My friend Faisal Hoque is a serial entrepreneur, author, and thought leader. His life is a modern story of success, failures, and resiliency – leaving Bangladesh at 17 for the United States where he has since founded businesses including SHADOKA and others. You may know his writing from Fast Company, Huffington Post, Forbes, or BusinessWeek.
I previously talked with him about The Power of Convergence. His latest book, written with Drake Baer, Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability. Like all of his writing, it is packed with ideas.
Faisal, it’s so good to talk with you again. Let’s start with your definition of “connectivity.” What is it? Why is it so important? If it is that important, how do we cultivate it?
There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion. -Faisal Hoque
Being holistic and humanistic is key to a great life and doing great work.
Our individual, interpersonal, and organizational working lives all interconnect. By examining these connections, we learn new ways to create, innovate, adapt, and lead.
We need to address our own mental experiences, our social interactions, and the mindset we can take to orient ourselves to this holistic, long-term view.
We need to explore understanding that leads to long-term sustainability, the way to act in a manner that promotes mutual flourishing, and how, crucially, a leader can urge us along this process.
We need to arrange our lives and our organizations in a way that leads to long-term value creation: surveying the subtle and not-so-subtle arts of idea generation, decision-making, and creating continuous value.
The newest problems of the world find solutions in the oldest timeless practices like mindfulness, authenticity, and perseverance—because Everything Connects.
Understanding Unique Motivations
“Somewhere along the way, people become convinced that stasis is safer than movement. Consistency feels comfortable; volatility is frightening.” As a leader, how do you motivate people out of the comfortable?
I think first, we have to appreciate the interior complexity of the people that we work with. Then, we need to make the links between a person’s individual motivations and what our organizations need. In other words, link the individual–personal goals like career trajectories–to the collective group goals like innovation, revenue growth, and impacting the world.
Leaders need to connect with the emotional intelligence of their people and curate their talent to change, adapt, move forward. There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion. -Faisal Hoque
To do this we need to understand what people need from their work in order to do their best work–and how leaders can help arrange that for them. This distinction is rooted in intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If people are intrinsically motivated, there is something inside of them that pushes them to their work; if they are extrinsically motivated, something outside of them brings them there. They embrace the unknown, volatility. Leaders need to connect with the emotional intelligence of their people and curate their talent to change, adapt, move forward. There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion.
The Benefits of Meditation
You place a lot of value on meditation, calling it the “batting cage for getting familiar with the fastballs and curveballs of our conscious and unconscious habits.” Off the top of your head, what are the top three benefits of meditating?
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
How to Set and Attain Your Goals
Mark Divine retired as a commander in the US Navy where he had served as a SEAL for 20 years. He holds an MBA from NYU and is the founder of SEALTFIT, NavySeals.com, and U.S. CrossFit. His latest book is The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed.
Mark, it’s great to have a chance to talk with you as everyone is thinking about New Year’s resolutions: how to make them, but more importantly, how to keep them. Your book is a blueprint for success and is packed with principles, ideas, methods, and specific actions all designed to change your life. We can’t cover even a fraction of them, but I want to ask you about just a few.
Let’s start with visualization. You put it this way: “Visualize Powerfully.” How do you personally visualize your goals and your success?
I learned in the SEALs the importance of winning the mission (goal) in my mind before stepping off the ramp into the dark of the night.
What this means for me is a three step process:
Go after well defined targets
First, I ensure that the targets I go after are the right targets and are super well defined so I don’t waste valuable time and energy chasing impossible dreams or improbable projects. In the past I often had poorly defined new year goals that quickly fell by the wayside. That happened because they were the wrong targets, or poorly defined to begin with. I outline a powerful process for preventing this and selecting the right targets in my book.
Imagine what victory looks like
Second, I imagine what victory looks like for my target / goal. I see it as clearly and with as much detail as possible in my mind’s eye. In fact I have built an imaginary training space I call my ‘Mind Gym’ where I do this inner work. In the gym I see the outcomes of the goal, see myself achieving it and what my life is like after. I see myself as the type of person who CAN achieve the goal and possessing all the skills and knowledge necessary to crush it.
Review your goals daily
Third, I visit my mind gym daily to review the visualization while tackling the tasks and preliminary steps toward accomplishing the goal. This strengthens the image and eventually leads to greater confidence and certainty of mission success.
“Decisiveness is a must for anyone seeking to gain momentum toward their critical targets.” –Mark Divine
Breathe for Success
You talk about the importance of breathing in your book. Why is it so important and would you share one of your breathing exercises?
The Benefits of Deep Breathing
In a firefight or any intense situation, I learned to perform better by controlling my physiology and psychology. The key was learning how to breathe more powerfully. It is the first and most important of what I call the ‘big four of mental toughness’ skills. Deep diaphragmatic breathing, through the nose, brings two immediate and critical benefits for mission success:
First, It is a stress release mechanism because it stimulates the automatic nervous system’s calming function. We are riddled with stressors coming at us from all angles, many self-imposed, and this breathing technique slows down our heart rate, calms our body and allows us to get back in control of our physiology so we can direct it towards performance.
Second, it centers us by narrowing the range of our critical mind’s thought patterns. The concentration required to breathe deeply means you are now focusing on health and stress release. This triggers positive feelings and thoughts, and the mind slows down so we can direct it towards the important tasks leading to success.
The training technique is simple, called the ‘Three part breath.’ Begin by exhaling all the air from your lungs, then inhale deep into your belly . . . your belly will move out. When the lower part of your lungs are full (your belly is ‘full’), then activate your diaphragm to fill the middle of your lungs. When that is full, then use your upper chest to fill the top of the lungs. The exhale is then done in reverse order, and the whole breath cycle should be a five count inhale and five count exhale. Over time you will do this naturally and unconsciously in one step, versus three steps. It will help you stay positively focused on your important goals in 2014 AND have great benefit for your overall health and peace of mind.
The Secret to Performance
That’s the secret to performance: conviction. The right note played tentatively still misses its mark, but play boldly and no one will question you. – Rachel Hartman, Seraphina
Dan never failed to astonish me.
If he had a class project due at 8:00 a.m. but had yet to start it, he would say, “Oh, I’ll just go talk to the professor. He’ll understand.”
There was no hesitation in his voice. He never wavered in his absolute belief that he would be granted an extension. And without exception, he always was.
Sometimes he probably deserved an extension. Mostly, he didn’t. But he could charm, cajole, and coerce every professor he ever needed to.
My coworker Craig had the same talent. He could enter a conversation with people vehemently opposed to his political views, but by the end of the discussion they would usually be nodding their heads as they reconsidered their stance. More than once, I heard, “I don’t know why, but if you ran for office, I’d vote for you.”
I have stood on the sidelines and watched these maestros conduct their magic. Occasionally, they would have to poke me to make me hide my astonishment, lest I let the cat out of the bag. You could say they were masters of manipulation, and that would be true in some instances. But most of the time, my two charismatic friends simply persuaded and influenced their listeners.
It helped if they knew what they were talking about, but I’ve seen them plunge into situations for which they had no preparation and come out with the upper hand. The strength of their magic did not come from their competence of the subject matter—it came from their conviction that, whatever the issue, they were right.
Confidence Trumps Competence
I am fascinated with people like Dan and Craig because their approach is so alien to me.
By my nature, I focus on facts and reason. My instinctive approach to selling, communication, and influencing used to be to present the facts in logical order, and then allow the other person to draw their own conclusions. From one point of view, I sold competence.
While that may seem an ethical and transparent approach to business, it made for a lousy living.
Competence matters. Sincerity and honesty matter. Ethics are a cornerstone of long-term success. These things are important. But when it comes to working, selling, and communicating—that is, compelling other people to act—competence and such have never been enough to bring real success.
My mistake was in leaving out the key ingredient that came so naturally to my cohorts: confidence.
Sadly, I remember the time I cost Craig (and our company) a major client. If we had landed them, the client would have been our biggest by far. The recurring revenue from the contract would lift our company from being a marginal player to an “up and coming” enterprise.
Craig’s discussions with the client had gone well. By the end of the big meeting, the client showed all the signs of having made their choice. Things seemed sure.
The next week, I was sent in to do a follow-up meeting—really, a meet-and-greet with the head honchos. I was nervous about taking on the client, though. It would mean hiring more people, learning some new tools, and significantly changing how we operated.
But the truth was that the client intimidated me.